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Essential service markets and people with mental health problems

24 May 2018

Essential service markets and people with mental health problems [ 0.9 mb] is a piece of ethnographic research examining the lived experience of people with mental health problems, and how they interact with essential service providers. A more detailed look at these issues in the energy market can be found in The energy market and people with mental health problems [ 0.82 mb].

This was conducted by Britainthinks on behalf of Citizens Advice, and sits alongside Beyond good practice guides: improving support with essential services for people with mental health problems [ 0.75 mb].

This research finds that customers with mental health problems:

  • Can go through periods in which they will totally disengage with their providers and essential service accounts (and may not have informal support networks they can rely on for support during this time).

  • Can find it challenging to be proactive in their communications with providers even when the cost of inaction is high (and especially if they need to do so over the phone).

  • Can struggle to engage effectively with competitive markets, especially when proactive switching is necessary in order to get the best package or deal.

  • Can find it hard to engage effectively with competitive markets when exposed to more aggressive sales techniques. Such practices may lead to customers signing up to products/services that are unsuitable for them.

  • Can struggle to budget and control spending in other areas of their lives that end up impacting on essential service accounts.

  • Are not always able to find the ‘right moment’ to disclose their mental health problem to providers or are reluctant to do so due to concerns over data security, fear of being labelled and lack of clarity around the benefits of doing so.

There is clear appetite for changes to provider practice among people with mental health problems. If done well, they would represent a step-change in essential service provision for consumers with mental health problems.